Germany, Austria


The transformation of a strong woman torn from her contentend world during a sailing trip.

Rike - mid-30s, a doctor from Europe - embodies a typically Western model of happiness and success. She is educated, confident, determined and committed. We see Rike‘s everyday life, as an overworked emergency doctor, before she sets out on a much-needed holiday on Gibraltar. There she fulfils a long-held dream and sails out to sea alone in her sailing boat. Her goal: Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean. But her dream holiday is quickly broken off on the high seas, when, after a storm, she finds herself near a stricken refugee boat. Unless she intervenes, around a hundred people will drown – their utterly overloaded boat has sprung a leak. Rike follows maritime law and radios for help - legally, she is not obliged to do any more. But when her calls are left unanswered, and then rejected for spurious reasons, she decides to overcome her fear and try to rescue whoever she can.

Director's Statement

Every day at Europe's external borders, people die in their quest for peace as they attempt to save themselves by crossing the sea to our continent. That these people, according to our research, can still rely on little support from official institutions was confirmed by our discussions with SEA WATCH, MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES, BORDERLINE EUROPE and MOAS, who are among the private aid organisations present.

Encounters in the middle of the ocean between pleasure boats and overloaded, stricken refugee boats are a nightmare scenario much discussed among sailors, and such incidents are becoming increasingly common.
What happens if a solo sailor (a yachtswoman alone on a boat) finds herself in this situation?
Inspired by true events, STYX pursues this question in a fictional fashion, illustrating how economic interests compete with humanitarian principles, how excessive demand usurps compassion, and how indifference destroys all hope. The film deals with individual dreams of paradise, and revolves around central questions of identity:
Who are we, who do we want to be, and who do we have to be?

Our central character is a determined, successful woman with life experience, and is also a passionate water sports enthusiast. Award-winning actress Susanne Wolff – herself a blue-water sailor with an International Certificate of Competence – encapsulates the main character’s central qualities. Leading man Gedion Odour Wekesa is a schoolboy from Kibera/Nairobi. He takes acting classes as part of the ONE FINE DAY organisation’s funding programme, and beat 40 other boys to win the role.

STYX documents, in a realistic fashion, the journey of its female protagonist. She spends half the film alone on the high seas, on board an 11-metre yacht. Consequently, for the most part, dialogue plays little role. Instead, the sounds of extreme nature, and of the technical measures employed to confront her, take over. The majority of the film was shot in real-life conditions on the open sea. The set is confined to the actual unmodified surface area of an 11-metre yacht. Sound and noises are genuine. The camera focusses throughout on the female protagonist. Only at the beginning and end, in which she becomes a vanishing part of a larger whole, is her location contextualised.
In the film’s second half, a confusion of international languages complements the constant background noise, underlining the proverbial redundancy of language with such subject matter. Only at decisive turning points is there complete silence.

The film’s narrative is consistently linear, and divided into three main phases.
Phase 1
We begin in Cologne, "on safe ground", where the heroine dominates the situation. Here, she can exercise her full capabilities, relying on the unconditional help of all involved as well as on the smooth running of failsafe systems.
Phase 2
Now, as she sails without firm ground beneath her feet, the heroine remains mistress of the situation. Even in difficult conditions, she keeps her boat fully under control, staying connected via radio to her surrounding world, on whose cooperation she can count at any time. Expertly, she eliminates any smaller impediments alone.
Phase 3
Only in the wake of her encounter with the shipwreck, and the subsequent lack of support from others, does our heroine gradually lose control of the situation.

Director's Biography

Wolfgang Fischer was born in 1970 in Vienna/Austria.
He studied Psychology and Painting at the University of Vienna followed by studies of Film at the Art Academy of Düsseldorf and at the Academy of Media Arts (KHM) in Cologne.
Beside various teaching assignements he was working as an assistent for Paul Morrissey and Nan Hoover.
He was awarded a scholarship by the Munich Screenplay Program and by Equinoxe Europe.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Wolfgang Fischer

Written by: Ika Künzel, Wolfgang Fischer

Produced by: Marcos Kantis, Martin Lehwald, Michal Pokorny

Cinematography: Benedict Neuenfels

Editing: Monika Willi

Production Design: Benedict Neuenfels, Volker Rehm, Wolfgang Fischer, Ika Künzel

Costume Design: Nicole Fischnaller

Make-Up & Hair: Elke Hahn

Original Score: Dirk von Lowtzow

Sound Design: Uwe Dresch, Andre Zimmermann

Visual Effects: Martin Ziebell

Cast: Gedion Oduor Wekesa (Kingsley), Susanne Wolff (Rike)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2018